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Kei Nishikori ends Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's ATP finals hopes

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Story highlights

  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will miss ATP finals after losing to Kei Nishikori in Paris
  • Frenchman was one place outside those who will qualify for season-ending event
  • Japan's Nishikori will next face another French London hopeful, Richard Gasquet
  • World No. 2 Novak Djokovic wins his opening match at the Masters 1000 event
One French tennis star kept alive his hopes of a long-awaited return to the ATP World Tour Finals on Tuesday, but another has missed out on a third successive appearance.
Jo-Wilfried was the 2011 runner-up at the men's season-ending tournament, but he will not be part of the eight-man line-up in London next month after blowing two match-points against Kei Nishikori in the second round of the Paris Masters.
Tsonga was ranked a career-high fifth last year, but has dropped to 10th in the standings after sitting out big chunks of this season due to injury.
The 28-year-old raced to victory in the opening set against Nishikori but then lost two tie-breakers against the world No. 19 as he went down 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (9-7).
"I believe he managed well, because I could have won that match," Tsonga said of Nishikori, who beat France's Julien Benneteau in his opening match. "He was very solid, especially during the important moments.
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"I really have to improve my physical condition. I have to work a lot and very hard during the break. But if I'm able to play very solid matches like I played for the first set, it's going to be good."
Tsonga led 6-5 in the decider but double-faulted, then Nishikori saved himself at 7-6 down with an ace.
The first Japanese man to reach the fourth round of the French Open since 1938, he will next take on another player from the host country of this tournament -- Richard Gasquet -- on Thursday.
With world No. 3 Andy Murray sidelined by injury for the rest of this year, ninth-ranked Gasquet holds the last place for London as he bids for his first qualification since his 2007 finals debut in Shanghai.
He wasted two match-points in the second set against Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday but fought back to beat the Spaniard 7-5 6-7 (6-7) 6-3 in a match lasting two hours and 41 minutes.
"I felt bad," Gasquet said. "I had two match points and I was close to winning the match. There was a tie-break after that, and I thought it was very tough to lose that second set.
"Physically, it was tough. It could have turned around in his favor. I was lucky."
South African Kevin Anderson also had a measure of luck as his first-round opponent Mikhail Youzhny retired hurt with the score 4-6 7-6 (7-0) 2-1.
World No. 21 Anderson will next face 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, who needs to win Wednesday's match to secure a record 12th consecutive appearance at the finals.
Federer, seventh in the Race to London standings, spent Tuesday engaging with his fans on Twitter.
World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who also had a first-round bye, overcame a stubborn performance by 189th-ranked Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert to triumph 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal will begin his campaign Wednesday against fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers, who defeated Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 6-4 6-4 in round one.